UCC deserves more attention from media, civil society, and Parliament

By Peter G. Mwesige

I find it frustrating but not shocking that Tuesday’s newspapers and many radio and television bulletins in Uganda did not carry the news that the Uganda Communications Commission will have a new board of directors shortly.

On Monday 27 November, Minister of ICT & National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze announced via Twittter that Cabinet had approved a new board for the communications regulator.

It is to be chaired by a new entrant, Dr Dorothy Okello, a highly regarded engineer and technologist who founded the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET). Other new entrants are Dr Jimmy Saamanya, the former Permanent Secretary at the ICT ministry, former minister Wanjusi Wasieba, lawyer Enoch Barata and human rights defender Pamela Judith Angwech.

I have in the past decried the inadequate attention that the Ugandan media, civil society, the opposition and Parliament pay to the operations of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), an institution that wields and exercises enormous power over broadcasting and telecommunications in our country.

In the last two years, for instance, UCC has effortlessly shut down social media and mobile money and banned live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings and demonstrations, and temporarily closed some radio stations in moves that are widely believed to be politically motivated.

But like the Uganda Police, the Communications regulator, easily gets away with these illegalities and/or partisan shenanigans.

That the announcement of a board for the regulator did not make it to Tuesday’s newspapers confirms that it is still business as usual.

Those who care about the health of our communications sector and ultimately our society should show more interest in the activities of UCC.

Let’s start with the new board.

There is no doubt that some of the members are brilliant Ugandans with the requisite experience. But the public and parliament needs to know more about all of them.

  • What do they bring to the table?
  • How were they nominated?
  • What is the board’s role?
  • Can this board make UCC a more transparent and accountable regulator?
  • Will the board be accountable to the appointing authority or to the public?

There are too many questions that the keen journalist should be asking. The same applies to civil society and Parliament.

***

Dr Mwesige is ACME co-founder and executive director.

Twitter: @pmwesige

Photo credit: UCC Facebook page

About Peter G. Mwesige

Dr Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) Email: mwesige@acme-ug.org; Twitter: @pmwesige

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